There’s not much that’s more satisfying than crossing a handful of tedious cleaning chores off your to-do list. But before you give yourself a (well-deserved) mental high-five for scrubbing the tub, vacuuming the rugs or wiping the crumbs off the kitchen counters, there’s one more thing you need to do: Clean your cleaning tools.
It’s an oft-neglected task, says Zeynep Mehmetoglu, co-owner of Maid Bright in the D.C. area, because “you’re just like, ‘Oh, let me get this clean and just walk away.’ You just want to clean as fast as possible and move on to something else.”
But not cleaning your cleaning implements can negate all the time you took to clean.
“If you are not cleaning your tools, you’re also kind of spreading the dirt,” says Becky Rapinchuk, founder of Clean Mama. “There’s a reason to clean the cleaning tools, and that is so that we’re not spreading germs around.”
Ultimately, Rapinchuk says, “it’s really not that difficult to clean them. You just have to know what to do.”
Here’s how she and other cleaning experts suggest disinfecting and caring for some common cleaning tools.
A toilet brush, says Rapinchuk, who’s based in suburban Chicago, is “the grossest thing to clean.” After you’re done scrubbing your toilet with the brush, she says, don’t just return it to its holder. Instead, flush the toilet a couple of times with the brush still in the bowl to ensure the brush is clean. Suspend the brush over the bowl, with the toilet seat holding it in place, and use a spray bottle to squirt hydrogen peroxide on the bristles. Leave it there until it’s dry, then put the brush back in the holder. “It’s super easy,” Rapinchuk says. “You don’t have to touch anything.”
Vacuums are the power tools of cleaning, but they require a little attention to keep them running smoothly. Jarelle Flibotte, owner of Jolly Maids and Cleaning By JMF in Barre, Vt., recommends that, after every use, you unplug your vacuum, examine the underside of the brush and cut along the indentation by the brush with a small razor or pair of scissors to remove accumulated hair that can slow the brush down. You should also inspect the filters weekly, she says. If they are made of foam, rinse and air-dry them. (High-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filters should be changed about once every six months.)
James Rothstein, owner of the Maid Man in Chanhassen, Minn., says he sprays the tubing and attachments with a multi-surface cleaner, then wipes them down.
Mehmetoglu recommends emptying the dust bin on bagless models each time you vacuum. To keep your vacuum functioning well, find a small air compressor, such as the type used to clean computer keyboards, and spray the inside of the bin and the vacuum’s surrounding parts and crevices to ensure dust does not accumulate. “This has happened to me, where the vacuum will stop working if you don’t clean the parts, because there is no bag trapping all of that dust,” she says. If your model has a bag, change it according to the manufacturer’s instructions — or before it becomes full. If your vacuum isn’t picking up dirt, there’s a good chance you need to change the bag.
Carlos Soto and Joanna Krzesinska, a married couple who own ChicProClean in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, say they use microfiber cloths more than anything else in their cleaning arsenal. The cloths are workhorses, Soto says, and they can withstand hundreds of washes.
A word of caution, though: Don’t mix them with other fabrics in the wash. If they’re thrown in with towels and cotton shirts, “all the lint is going to get inside the microfiber,” Soto says. “It’s going to clog up the pores, and it’s going to shorten the length of how long the microfiber cloths will be usable.”
And never use fabric softener or bleach when washing microfiber cloths. Instead, Krzesinska says, pour a cup of white vinegar and a teaspoon of dish soap in with the laundry detergent. “It deodorizes the microfiber, too,” she adds.
Once they’re washed, air-dry them or use the medium heat setting on your dryer, Soto says.
Flibotte and her cleaning technicians scrub sponges with a small brush, then toss them in the dishwasher. Soto also uses the dishwasher to clean sponges. He puts them on the top rack and uses the sanitize cycle.
Danielle Steiner, owner of Steiner Cleaning in Minnesota, says she throws her scrub brushes in the washing machine with hot water and laundry detergent. To keep them from banging around inside the machine, she suggests tossing them in with cleaning rags. Don’t put them in the dryer, though; air-dry them instead. “I’ve melted some toothbrushes,” she says, “so I try to remember to grab those out before I dry the rags.”
Brooms and mops
For brooms, once you’re done sweeping, use a paper towel or your hands to grab anything sticking to the bristles. Wash the dustpan in a utility sink with Castile or dish soap and warm water. While the water runs, Rapinchuk recommends working the tips of the bristles into the soapy dustpan to remove excess dirt. Then let it drip-dry over the sink.
If your mop has a detachable microfiber cloth, toss it in the washing machine with laundry detergent, Flibotte says. If you use cotton terry cloths, Mehmetoglu says to throw them in the wash with a little bleach to disinfect them. She suggests rinsing wet mops that don’t have a detachable head in a utility sink. Fill a clean bucket with hot water and dishwashing liquid, and let the mop soak for at least 10 to 15 minutes. “Depending on how gross your mop head gets, you’re probably going to have to soak it for longer and run your hands through that mop head to get it all sudsy,” she says. Then rinse it until the water runs clear, and let it air-dry.
To clean your reusable rubber gloves, put them on, drop a dollop of dishwashing detergent on them, and wash them as if you’re washing your hands. Hang them to dry. “Easy,” Soto says. “Your best friend is simplicity.”
Erin Chan Ding is a freelance writer based in Illinois.
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